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Old 02-02-2010, 11:42 PM
 
3,970 posts, read 12,123,233 times
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I am a forgotten son of Grand Rapids. I have never lived there, but have strong connections to the city and consider myself to be forever related to the city due to my family history.

My Father was born in GR, after his parents immigrated from the Ukraine. As a child our family traveled almost every summer, and some winters, from the west coast to GR. This would have been generally the 1960's and 70's. I have fond memories of the city, as it was indeed a more traditional U.S. city than my west coast roots. My grandparents were hard-core GR residents, and wouldn't have considered living anywhere else.

My memories include warm, humid days visiting, (no AC at Grandmas's 1950's house just off Lake Michigan Drive), going to the basement during a tornado warning, and generally being uncomfortable with the summer weather. I also remember winter visits and being overwhelmed by snow.

John Ball Park was the place for the kids. Plus, the zoo was fun.

There was a cheap dime store up Lake Michigan Drive, and there was a Krogers somewhere up there too. The Elks Club wasn't far away, and my uncles took us there and got themselves liquored up.

Grandma liked to listen to WOOD radio while she cooked old Ukranian dishes. Dinner was usually midday, and supper was the late meal. Dad would take us to the old neighborhood, show us his ancient old house and ancient old school.

OK, cut to the chase. I have great memories of this city. How has it changed? Or has it? Am I just remembering fond family memories? It seems like a great place in my mind. Is it really? Or is it just a memory?
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Old 02-08-2010, 07:43 AM
 
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Aside from WOOD now being a radio and TV station, not much else has changed, depending on who you ask. The old ethnic neighborhoods aren't as readily apparent to those not from around here but you can still find spots where the old timers hang out if you know who to ask and where to go.
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Old 02-11-2010, 12:43 PM
 
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The John Ball Park and Zoo are still there and the cheap five and dime is now a Walgreens. The west side had better times. Still an area for immigrants, they're just from other places now.
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Old 02-16-2010, 10:23 PM
 
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Thanks for the responses, though limited. I would like to visit again, but something tells me not much has changed. And that is both comforting, and somewhat sad at the same time. I know GR is developing in different parts of the metro, and that is a good thing. Michigan needs these smaller metros to bring the State back. I guess places like Grand Rapids need to be the leaders with new technology and new ideas. Best of luck to all in my second native State.
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Old 02-17-2010, 11:10 AM
 
Location: Grand Rapids Metro
8,872 posts, read 17,742,937 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pw72 View Post
Thanks for the responses, though limited. I would like to visit again, but something tells me not much has changed. And that is both comforting, and somewhat sad at the same time. I know GR is developing in different parts of the metro, and that is a good thing. Michigan needs these smaller metros to bring the State back. I guess places like Grand Rapids need to be the leaders with new technology and new ideas. Best of luck to all in my second native State.
Though much of the West Side is the same as it was back then, as you get closer to downtown, it doesn't at all resemble what it used to look like (from pictures I have seen). It's a lot less industrial, especially with GVSU's new downtown campus covering almost a whole block West of 131. And the whole area around the American Seating factories has been mostly converted to loft offices and residential complexes. I even heard there's about 2000 people who work in that area now.

You might find some areas of downtown to look familiar, but most of it will look totally different (in a good way from what I hear).
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Old 02-17-2010, 10:16 PM
 
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Originally Posted by magellan View Post
Though much of the West Side is the same as it was back then, as you get closer to downtown, it doesn't at all resemble what it used to look like (from pictures I have seen). It's a lot less industrial, especially with GVSU's new downtown campus covering almost a whole block West of 131. And the whole area around the American Seating factories has been mostly converted to loft offices and residential complexes. I even heard there's about 2000 people who work in that area now.

You might find some areas of downtown to look familiar, but most of it will look totally different (in a good way from what I hear).
Thanks for that. You mentioned American Seating. Funny, that is where my grandparents neighbors worked, and have remained family friends ever since.
And Grand Rapids was, (perhaps still is), known as "The Furniture City". Does the city still use this nickname?
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Old 02-19-2010, 12:41 PM
 
Location: Grand Rapids Metro
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Originally Posted by pw72 View Post
Thanks for that. You mentioned American Seating. Funny, that is where my grandparents neighbors worked, and have remained family friends ever since.
And Grand Rapids was, (perhaps still is), known as "The Furniture City". Does the city still use this nickname?
A little. Steelcase still has a pretty big presence, but most of its facilities are way out South of the city in the burbs. And it's much smaller than it was even five years ago. Herman Miller and Haworth round out the Big 3 furniture makers in the area (over near Holland and Zeeland). Most of the wood furniture makers are gone. A lot of the old factory buildings still remain, like Widdicomb, Baker, Klingman's, Berkey&Gay, and are slowly being converted to residential and offices. You can't throw a rock around downtown without hitting an old converted warehouse.

If you know the Israels family, they are the ones pushing a lot of redevelopment on the West Side.
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Old 02-19-2010, 10:36 PM
 
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You mentioned the westside, and someone else mentioned the westside as being the place where immigrants settled. Do I have that right?

Interesting that my family's roots were indeed immigrant, (Ukranian), but my dad's brother eventually settled on the eastside, perhaps to seperate himself from that stigma? This is fascinating to me. I would ask him, but all my father's brothers have passed. Also interesting that another poster said the westside still attracts immigrants, just different immigrants. Please expand on that.
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Old 02-20-2010, 09:04 AM
 
Location: Niceville, FL
8,231 posts, read 16,828,129 times
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The west side below the hill (think Lake Michigan Drive exit on I-196 in terms of hill) used to skew pretty heavily Polish. Then the Poles moved out to the burbs from the 70s through the 90s and now it seems to be skewing Hispanic.

To some degree, I think the change and different mix of people has been healthy for the area. A notiecable percentage of the old time Poles were pretty racist- I can remember working at the Richmond Park pool in the early 90s, and you'd still get potential patrons who asked if we got many of those black people over there to swim. (with the implication that they didn't want to swim where black folks did)

These days when I go back, it seems like the remaining old timers are more tolerant of people who don't look like them moving into the area. It was nice to hit the 7-11 on Alpine Ave for a late night slurpee run and see a black customer joking with the white store clerk like he was a regular there because 25 years ago, that so wouldn't have happened in that part of town.
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Old 02-20-2010, 01:01 PM
 
Location: Grand Rapids Metro
8,872 posts, read 17,742,937 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pw72 View Post
You mentioned the westside, and someone else mentioned the westside as being the place where immigrants settled. Do I have that right?

Interesting that my family's roots were indeed immigrant, (Ukranian), but my dad's brother eventually settled on the eastside, perhaps to seperate himself from that stigma? This is fascinating to me. I would ask him, but all my father's brothers have passed. Also interesting that another poster said the westside still attracts immigrants, just different immigrants. Please expand on that.
Most immigrants are moving into Kentwood now. I heard there are over 100 different languages spoken at the high school.
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